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SSD Laptops: Are They Worth the Price Premium?

Updated on March 31, 2012
ASUS Zenbook
ASUS Zenbook

Laptops equipped with solid state drives were few and far between a couple of years ago, not to mention hideously expensive. Since then, smart devices like the iPad and smartphones have been capturing the hearts of the technology loving public, so most people today actually use a device with Flash-based storage, even if it is of the low-end variety. Hard drives are still ubiquitous in laptops, and they have become bigger and slightly faster, but they offer nowhere near the performance of current SSDs. These days the drives have also become much less expensive, allowing for more laptops to ship with SSDs right away. This can be seen in the ultrabook phenomenon, for example, or the MacBook Air. Here are a few good reasons why your next laptop should come with the new storage technology, as well as a few cases when it shouldn't.

Extended Battery Life

Anyone that owns a portable device like a laptop knows that a batter drain can ruin an entire day. The reason most people buy laptops is for portable use. Ironically, most users only get a few hours at best out of the battery before they are looking for a place to recharge. An SSD helps extend this life.

The SSD drive uses less power. Unlike a hard drive it doesn't have to power motors and disks, so this makes it much more efficient in terms of power use. This will thrill anyone who uses their laptops in places where they are unable to charge their batteries. Of course, just adding an SSD will not give you hours of extra time away from the mains, but every drop of battery juice saved counts.

Faster Access to Data

People hear the word faster and they are instantly impressed. Sometimes it doesn't really mean much, as is the case with small changes in processor speeds, but with SSD the difference really is noticeable. The ability to access data quickly and efficiently is evident with solid state drives. There are not as many moving parts involved. This means that there aren’t any fragmented files to rearrange on this disk. The drive doesn't have to work so hard to find files when a search is conducted (and seek times are nearly non-existent).

All the RAM (system memory) in the world will not speed up this process. It takes something like a fast SSD to expedite internal processes like this. Large amounts of RAM are great for things like multitasking and opening graphic heavy content on the web. The hard drive speed, however, plays a critical role in everything from the boot process to the saving and retrieving files on the drive. For example, a drive such as the Intel 520 offers up to 5x faster transfer rates compared to a regular hard drive, and this shows clearly in reduced boot and load times.

Better Resistance to Impact

Most people that buy laptops never think about impact resistance, but they should. A device that is portable is always going to be subjected to more bumps and bruises than a standard home PC, and data recovery from a broken drive is often impossible for the average user. This is why it is a good thing to have a SSD in place. It is less likely to get damaged because there are no moving parts. There's no need to worry about damaging a spinning disk that is found in a regular hard drive.

No moving parts.
No moving parts.

Noise Reduction

Laptops are convenient, but they are not without their faults. There are some things that everyone would probably change about their laptops if they could. Noise is probably on top of everyone's list. It should come as no great surprise that the SSD even conquers this dilemma pertaining to the hard drive. Again, things come down to the moving parts. A regular drive has no choice but to make noise because of all the different parts that are working together. A SSD can operate silently. It’s also less affected by temperatures. This is definitely a win-win for consumers. Anyone considering a laptop purchase should keep in mind.

What About the Downsides?

The most obvious downside to getting a laptop with an SSD is that it inflates the price tag. Even though SSDs have dropped in price quite a bit recently, the cost per GB is still considerably higher compared to a mechanical hard drive.

This leads us to problem #2, namely capacity. In most cases you will have to settle for a smaller capacity when opting for Flash-based storage. This is particularly true in laptops, since they usually only have room for a single drive.

However, all things considered, the advantages are really worth the tradeoffs. Most people, myself included, who have ever owned a laptop with a solid state drive would never go back to using one with an old mechanical hard drive.


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